Monday, August 13, 2012

What Is Christian Fiction?

I'm 60,000 words deep into my current manuscript at the moment and for the life of me, cannot pull together a "spiritual arc". For those of you who don't spend your life obsessing about such things, this is you chracters' spiritual journey through a book.

The general rule being they should end up a better, wiser person than they were on page one and having grown in their faith. Or if they didn't have one, having one. Or if they'd once had one but lost it, having found it again. And a variety of variations on the theme.

My characters' stubborn refusal to go along with the arcs I had mapped out for them, along with my seeming inability to write anything about faith that doesn't come across as cheesy, trite, pious or just downright fake has me mulling what is Christian fiction?

Is it something that happens to be published by a "Christian Publisher"? Is it something that just doesn't have any swearing or sex in it? Does God have to be mentioned at all? If your hero or heroine doesn't believe in God, do they need to by the end? If it doesn't mention God, does it need to have some sort theme that gets the reader pondering eternal things? Can you have the occasion "minor" swear word if you throw in a Bible verse to even it out? (okay I'm being a little facetious on that one). Does good conquering evil sufficient? Does it count just if the author is a Christian?

So tell me what are your thoughts? When you are reading a book what would be in it that would make you classify it as Christian versus a good book with an uplifting theme? Or even just a wholesome book that you wouldn't be embarrassed if your grandmother borrowed it? Does it even matter to you how much of a faith journey there is or isn't integrated?


  1. I empathize. I am a Christian and I write fiction. Not all of it is squeaky clean and rated G. I try to make my characters real with real character faults and true-to-life problems. I do tend to go to the extreme and make my characters too "righteous" at times and I've been accused of being "preachy" On the other hand, I have a difficult time writing really bad characters. However, in real life there are bad people that everyone, including Christians must learn to deal with and as a Christian I want to see my bad guys get to heaven. So what to do? I don't try to please everyone, just God. I pray about what to write and simply let God lead the way.

  2. I love a good book with an uplifting message. For me, the Christian content must be integral to the character and the plot. A book that is merely a sermon in disguise puts me off. Lenora Worth and Irene Hannon are authors for Harlequin's Love Inspired line. I really enjoy their books, faith is deep and real, yet handled with a light touch and their characters are very engaging. Whatever you do, I hope you stay true to your characters and your story and don't try to tack on a Christian message that doesn't fit.
    Good luck :-)

  3. Excellent conversation... I read a book lately that was called 'Christian fiction' but there was very little mention of the Bible per se. One or more characters were Christians and just went about their lives without preaching, but their faith was evident. It was very refreshing to NOT be preached to, and these characters were presented in a normal, non-threatening way that would appeal to the unsaved without making them squeamish. This didn't really address the question, but I think variety is the key.

  4. I agree with Tracy. The characters should show their faith by how they live rather than quoting bible verses.We need those outside of Christ to read of the difference faith makes and then be challenged about what they need to do.At least that's what I have tried to do.

  5. I do believe that God has writers write in various forms and genres to reach all people and those who do not know Jesus. Some people may not embrace Christianity if it is literally put in their face especially in book form but a seed can be planted in their spirit by a story that moves and inspires to know more about God. I learned so much about God reading stories from Tolkien,C.S. Lewis and Ted Dekker without always having scriptures and bible verses in the story. I believe that inspirational books have their place in the world in terms of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ but not always in the format we think Christian books should be in. Don't get me wrong, books that inspired people to know God shouldn't be glorifying the flesh, the sins,or the evil schemes of the Devil but hold truth to what the Bible teaches on.

  6. Thanks for your thoughts everyone :)

    Like Elise says - different ways of presenting the message will reach different people!

  7. I agree with Elise too, Kara--and I'd just stick to the way you feel comfortable writing. I try to portray real characters in my novels, but know some of the readers of my very first novel thought the characters were 'too good to be true'! So I've had to work on that, particularly as I have always wanted non-Christians to feel comfortable reading my novels. But it's hard keeping that balance at times, isn't it? God bless--and keep on being non-cheesy and non-trite!